Transistioning to Adobe CS5 May Mean Hanging onto CS4 for a While

As Videomaker’s recent review highlights, the new CS5 versions of Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects are pretty spiffy, with their new features, plugins and faster rendering times, provided your PC is up to the task. But as I found out the hard way, if you’re an veteran user of either or both programs, you might not want to hang on to their earlier iterations for a little while longer.

The CS5 versions of these programs are built for a 64-bit computing architecture, which can dramatically speed render times, and allow for additional tracks of video and effects, as reviewer Brian Peterson highlighted in his Videomaker article:

For most of us, the most exciting news is Premiere Pro’s significant performance increase. At the heart of this speed improvement is the new 64-bit architecture, memory addressing, CPU optimization and the new Adobe Mercury Playback Engine that leverages the power of the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) of a compatible nVidia graphics card. This means that for processor intensive operations, such as using highly encoded video formats, you’ll get real-time performance even after stacking on layer after layer, each with effects and color correction.

For a quick speed test, we compared the frame rates of an identical project on the same computer in CS5 with GPU acceleration enabled and in CS4. We stacked six layers of various HD video formats that included two HDV, a DLSR and graphics MOV, AVI and, just for fun, an F4V. Each had at least three different effects, and four had additional motion and scaling. After hesitating for 10 seconds before starting, the playback in CS4 slowly climbed to 2.5 FPS. After a two second delay, the playback in CS5 was real-time without any dropped frames.

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Like Premiere Pro, the big news for After Effects is the improved playback and rendering performance. 64-bit memory addressing allows you to work with much larger files and create longer previews if you have the RAM. For instance, our test machine has 32GB so instead of 5.5-seconds of full resolution HD video with 4GB, we were able to produce a 111-second RAM preview. Although this did take several minutes to render, it is at least possible to preview your timeline within After Effects.

But the tradeoff is that many older aftermarket plugins designed for their earlier 32-bit iterations won’t work in the new CS5 versions. And for those of us who’ve built up a bunch of plugins over the years, it’s tough waiting for old favorites to be reissued in 64-bit versions.

Which means that in the interim, while we’re waiting for new versions to come from their manufacturers, to use such versatile plugins as Red Giant’s Toonit and Knoll Light Factory, and NewBlueFX’s snazzy transition plugins, you’ll need to assemble those shots in CS4 versions of Premiere Pro or After Effects, render the footage, and then import them into the timelines of their CS5 equivalents. (Note that some Red Giant plugins, such as most of the applications in their popular Magic Bullet Suite, are available now. Consult this chart for details.)

That’s exactly what I did in my recent “News They Kept To Themselves” Silicon Graffiti video: the opening shot is some stock footage from Volume One of Digital Juice’s HD Videotraxx collection, processed with Red Giant’s Toonit for a cartoon look, which then dissolves into the untreated stock footage. The “live from Baghdad” shot at 5:00 in was similarly produced in Premiere Pro CS4 to allow me to use Digieffects’ Damage plug-in (which is now available for CS5, incidentally, though some Digieffects plugins still remain pre-CS5) to simulate faulty TV reception, rendered out, and then imported into Premiere Pro CS5. (And the virtual sets throughout the video came from the now discontinued version of Adobe’s Ultra, last seen bundled with Premiere Pro CS5. These PNG files were dropped into the Premiere CS5 Timeline, resized to fit its square pixel 16X9 proportions, and deinterlaced to reduce aliasing issues.)

It’s unfortunate that some sort of workaround couldn’t have been invented to allow legacy plugins to migrate into CS5. For example, when Cakewalk went to a 64-bit architecture a few years ago in their popular Sonar digital audio workstation, they also developed a wrapper they call “BitBridge” to allow legacy 32-bit plug-ins to work with the 64-bit program.

Incidentally, for those coming in completely cold to the world of 64-bit computing, this video by Cakewalk from 2007 is great intro to the concept:

[youtube 4DSbUdaXET4]

But undoubtedly, video editing on a PC is a more complex, memory-intensive application than audio. And while the new CS5 versions of After Effects and Premiere Pro are more than up to the task (provided that they’re running on a powerful-enough application), as  I said, if they’re still on your PC, don’t uninstall their CS4 or CS3 versions just yet.

(Written by Ed Driscoll.)